The arrival of the world wide web has enabled humanity to move forward in leaps and bounds. It has destabilized old forms of power, fundamentally altered the media landscape and connected people all over the world. We are only at the early stages of the digital revolution and we expect further life-changing developments to come.
But what if robots could benefit from the internet in the same way? That is the question posed by the Roboearth project, a venture funded by the EU which intends to start building the world wide web for robots.
The idea behind RoboEarth is simple. Thousands of robots exist behind closed doors, but we never see them because they are usually programmed for very specific functions in very specific environments. Roboearth aims to change that by building a network where robots can upload their programming and connect with other robotic programmes.
The idea is that they will learn from one another and, according to the website, pave the way for “rapid advances in machine cognition and behaviour, and ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction”.In an interview with the BBC, Markus Waibel from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, described it as a Wikipedia for robots.
Obviously, all the worries about robots becoming our ‘overlords‘ have been bounding around the internet, and not without good cause. After all, this is the start of a worldwide robotic communication network that could exist independent of human input (kind of like Terminator’s SkyNet).
But I don’t think we need to worry quite yet. The ability for robots to share both environmental knowledge, object recognition and action databases will likely be the first step in robots stepping out of the factory and more into our daily lives.